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THE GERMAN PROTECTIVE FORCE 1903 ? 1908

By Dennis Bishop

The German Protective Force consisted of purely German soldiers in 1903, although it did make use of Baster, Bethanie and Witbooi auxiliaries. The Protective force was established at a strength of approximately 700 men, but the actual strength was closer to 800 men. The size of the force was dictated by the number of animals needed to provide supply and transport.
Line Officers 27
Medical Officers 9
Veterinarian Officers 3
Paymaster 1
Other ranks 726

The original field companies were mounted infantry capable of acting independently with their own commissariat. This force attracted many young aristocratic officers noted by the large number of "von" in the rosters of officers' names. In peace-time Germany, the only way to promotion was in the colonies.

Each company of 120 officers and men was fully mounted and divided into two sections. One section was kept together as a field force while the second section was broken up and stationed at smaller posts as police or given administrative duties. Machineguns were not attached to these companies at this time.

The I Field Company was stationed at Windhoek with outposts at Epukis and Gobabis. The II Field Company was stationed at Omaruru with outposts at Karibib and Swakopmund. The III Field Company was stationed at Keetmanshoop with outposts at Bethanie and Heirachabis. The IV Field Company was stationed at Outjo with outposts at Namutoni and Waterberg.

The I Marine Company was located at Luderitz Bay and there was an armored train at Windhoek. The I Artillery Battery was stationed at Okhandja and consisted of five modern quick-firing mountain guns, five older pieces and five Maxim machineguns.

In addition, there was a reserve of 34 officers and 730 men and 400 colonists capable of bearing arms. These were organized into units at Swakopmund, Windhoek, Gibeon, Bersheba, Bethanie, Warmbad and Keetmanshoop.

REINFORCEMENTS FORM GERMANY

Between January and February, 1904, three Marine companies and additional artillery were sent from Germany. Leutwin used these reinforcements to reorganize the original Protective Force attempting to add firepower at the expense of mobility. It proved to be a disastrous decision.

Colonel Leutwin's failures caused the German government to send more reinforcements. By the end of June, 1904, the entire 2nd Regiment arrived with 169 officers and administrators, 2185 other ranks and 2000 horses. General von Trotha reorganized the 4,000 men into two regiments, the thirty artillery pieces into two battalions and the twelve machineguns into three sections.

General von Trotha's reorganization, though impressive looking, was not logistically viable. If the 20,000 men deployed to the colony is accurate, that meant that approximately 15,000 men were either deployed as garrison troops, or as logistic support. It worked against the Herero, but it failed against the Hottentot.

Only Colonel Deimling's compromise between fixed positions and mobile "flying squads" worked against the nimble Hottentot. With fresh troops always in reserve, the Germans were able to exhaust the Hottentot raiders. When this occurred, the Hottenetot were forced to either surrender or fight.

CONCLUSION

By 1908, the total German losses amounted to almost four times the number of Schultztruppe on active duty in 1904. Officer casualties constituted almost 10% of the casualties and the total casualties amounted to 12% of all the troops deployed into the colony. It seems to be a high price to pay for so little gained for so short of time.
TABLE OF LOSSES
German Losses
Officers Other Ranks Total
KIA
62 614 676
WIA
89 818 909
MIA
2 74 76
Total:
153 1506 1659
Died of Disease
26 663 689
Marines
100

Civilians
100

Grand Total:
179 2169 2548

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